Obama Begins Mapping Out General Election Strategy

CHICAGO (AP) -- Barack Obama's campaign on Wednesday sought to increase pressure on Hillary Rodham Clinton to wrap up the drawn-out Democratic nomination race as it mapped out a general-election strategy that will involve early campaigning in battleground states that have already held primaries.

"We're going to put a lot of states in play," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. He suggested this would include stepped up efforts in Florida and Michigan "to get them up to par with the other states."

Neither Obama nor Clinton campaigned in those two states because of Democratic party sanctions on them for holding earlier-than-authorized primaries. The seating of delegates from those states remains a matter of dispute between the two camps.

But in the meantime, neither Obama nor Clinton has actively campaigned there.

Obama's drive to nail down the party nod was buoyed with a double-digit win in North Carolina and a stronger-than-expected run in Indiana on Tuesday, where he almost overcame rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama was expected to compete for the six remaining Democratic contests, which offer a total of 217 delegates, but to also turn attention to general election states, aides said.

Obama was enjoying a rare down day in his hometown before returning to Washington, D.C., late Wednesday

He was expected to travel later in the week to Oregon, where he appears to hold the advantage, and then head to the Appalachian coal-states of West Virginia and Kentucky, where Clinton seems to have the edge.

Likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain has "run free for some time now" because of Democratic preoccupation with the ongoing primary fight, said Obama strategist David Axelrod. "I don't think we're going to spend time solely in primary states," he said. "We have multiple tasks here."

Obama's campaign arranged a conference call for reporters with prominent Democratic elected officials who are Obama supporters in a clear effort to nudge Clinton to step aside as she faces a daunting mathematic challenge to wrest the nomination from Obama.

"Now is the time for superdelegates to start bringing this process to a close and announcing their preferences," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told reporters the message of Tuesday night's primary votes was that Obama's march "cannot be contained."

At the same time, the Obama supporters stopped short of directly calling for Clinton to step down. "It is her decision and only her decision," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Still, McCaskill added, "We're confident she'll do the right thing."

"We don't want to be disrespectful," McCaskill said.

Meanwhile, in an e-mail to supporters soliciting contributions, Obama called his North Carolina showing "a decisive victory."

As for Indiana, "we did much better than all the pundits predicted, despite Republicans changing parties to support Senator Clinton, believing she would be easier for Senator McCain to defeat," Obama wrote. "Now is the time for each one of us to step up and do what we can to close out this primary."

Obama was 184.5 delegates shy of the 2,025 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

The remaining 270 unaligned superdelegates will clearly determine the outcome of the race. And the Obama campaign was doing its utmost to persuade them to get off the fence.

"We think the Clinton camp has gotten away with a little bit of creating these alternative views of reality," said Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager.


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